Written by Fleur Feeney |
The new year has come around and lots us have been faced with new year’s resolutions that we now, somehow, have to stick to. Well, if yours was to eat healthier, to cook better meals or to eat cheaper, look no further! Eating well doesn’t have to be a chore – with some well thought out shopping lists and a couple of handy websites, you can be the flat chef in no time. I know that a home cooked meal never goes amiss, especially if it saves you a pretty penny and you enjoy making it. So, I’ve compiled a small list of recipes that are either cheap, easy, incredibly yummy, or in most cases, a delicious mixture of all three. Bon appetit, mes amis!
Jack Monroe’s ‘Bean Goulash’
As a student, Jack Monroe has been a godsend. This particular recipe is cheap as chips and about as easy as ordering a takeaway being that it’s all cooked in one pot – meaning minimal washing up, and minimal effort! Essentially, all you need is a couple of tins of beans, chopped tomatoes, an onion, garlic, a generous shake of paprika and a stock cube. If you use a vegetable stock cube then this meal is deliciously vegan (yay for the planet!), but if you have a beef stock cube lying about then that goes in lovely too. Ms Monroe recommends a tin of kidney beans and a tin of baked beans with all the juice washed off, to get rid of the ‘tin taste’. This is lovely, perfect, and wholesome. But if you want to make it go a little further, I’ve enjoyed this meal perfectly well by just chucking the beans in straight from the tin. You can also try ‘mixed beans’ or ‘taco beans’ as a substitute to either kidney or baked if you want something a bit hotter. I would also recommend a good shake of chilli powder if you’re into that sort of thing. Warming, hearty, and full of good stuff, this is definitely what I would call comfort food. Have with a side of veggies, on rice, with a thick slice of bread slathered with butter, in a pitta, or straight from the pot.
Jack Monroe’s Tragedy Mash and Firecracker Sausages
When I first made this, I think I died and went to heaven. Even with cheapest ingredients, this dish is yummy as hell and easily adaptable too. Perfect if you’re tired of the regular beans on toast and want to feel a little fancy. I’ll add some veg on the side so that I’m getting my five a day and all that jazz, but that doesn’t have to be expensive – bags of frozen mixed veg are great staples for your freezer. You can also add them to other parts of the meal by adding carrots to the mash or stir strips of carrot into the pan of sausages by using a peeler. For something vaguely healthier, substitute butter and cheese for a splash of milk in your mash, or if you’re having a terrible day go absolutely wild with it.
TOP TIP: for quicker and healthier sweet potato mash, just shove the sweet potato straight in the microwave for about 8 minutes. Take it out, cut it open and scoop out the delicious insides and give them a mash with a fork. Easy peasy.
Jack Monroe’s Tinned Peaches and Chickpea Curry
Another Jack Monroe recipe? I know, but I’m not sorry. This is the first curry I ever made and it was dead easy to make. Like the bean goulash, it can easily be made vegan and it mostly involves tinned foods, meaning it’s cheap and cheerful. I was sceptical about the odd flavour combinations at first but, trust me, it works a treat. Add more or less chilli according to your taste, and serve with rice. Perfect for knocking up a dinner with odd bits in your cupboard, and for reheating from frozen when you don’t feel like cooking.
Pinch of Nom’s ‘Pepsi Max Chicken’
Pinch of Nom are a great resource to use. They’re a group of ladies cooking easy, slimming-world friendly food meaning that the dishes aren’t too fattening, often include lots of veg, and cater to a large variety of cooking abilities. I especially love their Pepsi Max Chicken, something that my mum makes a lot at home. This recipe is sweet, sticky and has a bit of heat to it, plus the smell of Chinese five spice will have all your flatmates telling you how great your dinner smells. I substitute chicken breasts for chicken thighs because they’re cheaper to buy, though it’s harder to get the meat off and I don’t often include baby corn but I will throw in an extra handful of frozen veg – a bit of frozen broccoli is great for Chinese takeaway vibes. It’s not that spicy, so feel free to add in some extra chilli/chilli powder/easy chilli. Make enough for dinner or do a bit of batch cooking and pop in the freezer for later. And no, you don’t have to use Pepsi Max, use any cola variant you like.
BBC Good Food Mushroom and Blue Cheese Gnocchi
I will admit cooking this recipe was not just the first time I’d ever made gnocchi, but the first time I’ve ever eaten it. It was heavenly, in case you were wondering. This Good Food recipe is literally ten minutes of your time and it’s to die for. Chuck in as much garlic as you like, break the mushroom up in your hands for some therapy and get yummy with it. I used goats cheese instead of blue cheese since I’m not a blue cheese fan and it works really well. I also added a load of spinach in there for some extra green and frylight instead of oil. This gnocchi dish is super adaptable and you can have it any which way you like. Though, top tip, I made extra so that I could have it for a rushed dinner later in the week, and I have to say I wouldn’t recommend microwaving this bad boy as the gnocchi gets a bit tough and chewy. But otherwise? Bloody delightful.
BBC Good Food, Spinach, Sweet Potato and Lentil Dhal
Good Food can be a little hit and miss in terms of student recipes, but I have to say, this one is spot on. I could have eaten it for days on end. It was really quite straightforward to make and is full of wholesome ingredients guaranteed to fill you up and tantalize your taste buds. Give yourself some time to cook the onions slowly on a low heat to reward yourself with a lovely, sweet flavour and feel free to adjust the spice ratios and add some more garlic if you fancy. I used regular red lentils, substituted fresh ginger for the lazy stuff in a jar, and threw on way too many spring onions (aka just the right amount). Feel free to half or quarter the ratios to make a meal for one, or save the extras for yummy lunches or dinners on the fly.
HOT TIP: goes fantastically loaded into a toasted pitta bread, dolloped with the leftover goats cheese from that great gnocchi recipe from earlier. Add more spring onions on top.
Jack Monroe’s Mushroom Mac’n’Cheese
Yes, I realise this has turned into a Jack Monroe fan page, but who else could be the grand finale? This is a comfort food dish if ever I saw one and can be made vegetarian, adapted for veganism (with some carefully placed milk alternatives and vegan cheese), or you can be cheeky and add a ton of bacon. The first time I made this, I was seriously impressed and contemplated living off just this meal forever. Be generous with the cheese, aggressive with the mushrooms and make it with love. The second time I made it, I used almond milk and while it worked perfectly fine, it wasn’t half as mouth-wateringly delicious, so if you’re using dairy alternatives I’d recommend having a play around with it to get something you’re happy with. You could definitely add a bit of spinach to this or stir in some veg for a bit of health, but let’s face it, this dish is for gorging yourself on cheesy, cheesy pasta, so go wild kids!